Why mothers aren’t accessing antenatal care early in their pregnancies

This article is based on a post by Dr Anja Smith that originally appeared on The Conversation, and can be accessed, in full, here. Dr Smith is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Research on Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP) unit in the Economics Department, Stellenbosch University.


New research by Dr Anja Smith, Prof Ronelle Burger, and Dr Vivian Black has investigated the reasons why South Africa faces such high numbers of late antenatal clinic visits by pregnant women. By usual measurements, nearly 80% of pregnant women in the study, who were interviewed after giving birth in an urban area in the Western Cape, had visited antenatal clinics for the first time, late.

This trend is seen as correlated to the extremely high maternal mortality levels prevalent in South Africa. The WHO found that, in 2015, for every 100,000 live births in South Africa, 138 women died due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. Compared to both other developed- and developing nations, this figure is startlingly high.

Dr Smith, et al. found that late antenatal clinic visits are largely due to women not becoming aware of their pregnancies soon enough, and was more prevalent among women with lower levels of education and socio-economic standing.

To combat this, Smith, et al. suggest two areas of policy intervention that could affect valuable change:

  1. They suggest that the availability of urine-based pregnancy tests should be increased to match the distribution of free condoms, which would also assist in the treatment of the unborn children of HIV-positive mothers, when identified early enough.
  2. Furthermore, the manner in which contraceptives themselves are distributed at clinics needs to be reconsidered, as many women in the study had unplanned pregnancies. This strategy could start by emphasising the roles of contraceptives not solely as HIV and other STI preventative measures.

To read the full article and learn more about the findings and insights of the research, please read the full article by Dr Smith, here.